Māori Council calls for inquiry into Pharmac

The Māori Council claims Pharmac's failings are leading to whanau dying, and is throwing its weight behind calls for a review of how it functions.

Executive director Matthew Tukaki has written to the Prime Minister demanding a royal commission of inquiry.

He says PHARMAC recently shifted 45,000 New Zealanders from one mental health drug to another, with numerous bad reactions.

"There were 142 adverse reactions, and those reactions could have including attempted suicides, or suicides - we just do not know."

Last year there were reports Pharmac's new chosen version of antidepressant venlafaxine was leaving users with headaches and deteriorating mental health. Prevously it had funded Effexor, but switched to Enlafax - a cheaper version of the same drug.

Effexor costs about $55 a month for anyone wanting to buy it themselves. Data showed between June and November 2017, there were more than 110 reports of adverse reactions - compared to just nine over the same period in 2016, when Effexor was funded, NMZE reported.

This is despite the two drugs supposedly being identical.

The Māori Council says New Zealand is also years behind in its approach to funding life saving or life-extending drugs.

Tukaki says Pharmac's $10 million per year boost in this year's Budget is majorly inadequate and a shot in the dark.

"We're not a third-world country - we're not a country with a devoid health system. We once were world leaders. What's happened to our system tthat's got us to the point where women in particular saying, 'I'm giving up'?"

Tukaki says there are more than 100 medicines waiting to be scheduled, some of which are available in Australia.

"The reality is that Māori, socioeconomically, are less likely and less able to be able to afford non-scheduled cancer treatments and drugs. Of course it's non-Māori as well who just can't afford them."

Pharmac currently gets $995 million a year to buy drugs, up from $850 million a year when the Labour-NZ First coalition came to power.

Where to find help and support: